USA TODAY Sports
Clippers stay competitive for a half of basketball, then fall apart against a Nuggets team that caught fire from three point range.
About a minute into the 3rd quarter, Chauncey Billups hit a three pointer that put the Clippers up, 54-49. At that point of the game, the Clippers and Nuggets had both shot an identical 3-9 from three point range.
Ty Lawson went on to hit consecutive three pointers to give the Nuggets the lead back. The Clippers last led 60-59, then Blake Griffin was mauled by Kenneth Faried on a pretty bad no call, and Denver took the lead and never looked back. The Nuggets finished 11-23 from outside, while the Clips went 7-22 from distance for the game.
This game has had "schedule loss" written all over it for quite some time. The Nuggets have taken advantage of opposition on the tail end of road back-to-backs for years, and with their excellent home record this season, tonight's game was no doubt a mile high task to take up for our Clips. The squad kept up in the first half, running with the Nuggets behind solid bench play, particularly Matt Barnes finding crafty lanes to the basket and taking advantage of mismatches. But an already tired Clipper team also had to deal with their primary bench firepower Jamal Crawford being out tonight, and the team simply ran out of gas in the second half. Chris Paul had a stretch of productivity bridging the 3rd and 4th quarters and even took a Billups-like heat check triple try early in the 4th, but he was benched after that attempt and the Nuggets maintained enough distance the rest of the game that the result was never in question.
For what it's worth, it's going to be hard to beat the Nuggets when they shoot threes like they did tonight, regardless of schedule. For a team that doesn't really have a big post presence, hitting three point jumpers is a huge relief in the half court offense. Vinny Del Negro and the Clips played zone for a big chunk of the second half and it got them back in the game at times, but the Nuggets seemed to get plenty of get looks, particularly from the corners. Even with those good looks, the Nuggets field so many mediocre shooters that it's hard to ever bank on them hitting those shots consistently. Tonight they were hitting them, and it proved to be the major x-factor. Ty Lawson led seven Denver players in double figures and continued his great play since the turn of the year with 21 points, 11 assists, 6 rebounds, 3 threes, and 0 turnovers. The Nuggets got contributions from across their roster and shot very well in every aspect tonight. Chris Paul can't let a point guard like Lawson outplay him so decidedly. Blake Griffin had a rather quiet 17 points, and a meager 2 rebounds. Quite a difference from his dominant triple double against the Bucks.
But enough about a "schedule loss," the Clips will have plenty of rest in between their next few games, including a few days off before taking on the Pistons at home on Sunday. Schedule win?
For the Nuggets perspective, check out Denver Stiffs.